Question 1). What educational or other education specific based community work or experience do you have to bring to your role on the school board?
Ric Powell: My professional career consisted of 36 years of educational experience. 16 years as a High School Special Educational instructor, and 20 years as a High School Athletic/Activities Director.
I was named the 2006 “Iowa Character Counts Educator of the Year” – an award presented to me by former Governor Robert D. Ray. I am very active at the church my wife and I attend, Lutheran Church of the Cross. I helped one summer with “Altoona Kids Café.” I spent a few years serving as a member of the SEP Kiwanis Club. I am the Treasurer for a group called “Good Government for Pleasant Hill.” I spend as much time as possible visiting all 11 schools in our district to talk to students, teachers, and administrators.
Question #2: In your opinion, what are some of the district’s strengths and weaknesses? How do you feel you could support the strengths and turn around the weaknesses?
Ric Powell: SEP School District has many strengths, mainly the best teachers in the State of Iowa work for our school district. Our district supports its teachers by keeping our class sizes down to a manageable number of students in each classroom. We provide a challenging curriculum and a variety of resources to our students. We are supporting our district by having a “Vision for the Future.” Our strong curriculum is paying off. An example of this is that our students are scoring extremely high on academic achievement tests and are well prepared for life after high school. The biggest weakness in our district currently is the total lack of minority teaching staff members. You can count on 1 hand the total number of African American teachers in our district. We can turn around this weakness by trying to find and recruit minority teachers to join our great teaching staff. Are number of minority students in our district is growing and we need to make them feel comfortable by having quality teachers in each school, with minority representation.
Question 3). Are you willing to listen to various viewpoints with an open mind and weigh all sides prior to making a decision? Are you willing to work with others to reach a common goal?
Ric Powell: Yes, I am willing an able to listen to all viewpoints with an open mind. On many occasions, I do not have a strong opinion on an issue, and it is after having the opportunity to listen to our students, staff, and community on both sides of the issue, that I can form my own opinion. With being retired and not having a full-time day job, it gives me time and opportunities to get out in the schools and community to sit down and discuss issues that are important to our school district. By having an open mind and being a good listener, it strengthens the comfort level of the person that I am talking to. I often take notes after having a conversation.
Question 4: What do you feel is the bigger obstacle facing school districts today; proper funding or proper spending?
Ric Powell: Both are very important. If I must choose, I will say proper spending. Since there is little that school board members can do to increase funding, it is our responsibility to be proper stewards of our spending. We spend wisely to provide our schools and classroom teachers with the tools they need to be successful. With our community passing the recent 92 million bond referendum, it provided us ways to improve technology in every classroom, build a needed Middle School to help eliminate the overcrowded High School. The funding from the bond also allows us to plan for the future that has allowed us to purchase land for future Elementary Schools, Middle Schools and a site for a 2nd High School. I have helped 4 of our elementary schools raise money for new playgrounds or playground additions by writing and receiving over $185,000 in Polk County Grants.
Question 5: What are your feelings regarding equality and inclusivity? What are your strategies to make sure all students and families are treated with dignity and respect regardless of sexual orientation, ability, race, religion and socio-economic status?
Ric Powell: I have strong feelings that every student in our district is equal to any other student. Having over 25 years of experience in the Des Moines Public Schools has provided me with valuable knowledge of different minority groups, students from different sexual orientations and religions and economic status. While I have strong religious beliefs, I feel that it has no place in public schools. Students with sexual orientations different than their peers, have every right to the same opportunity and respect as all other students. Being a former Special Education teacher of 16 years, I understand that students with disabilities need to be provided with the same opportunities as others. I understand IEP’s and the accommodations that need to be in place for these students to have success. I strongly feel that our district should hire more minority teachers at each of our 11 buildings. Our minority rates in our students is rising, and so should our teaching staff.